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From Great Tribulation to Eternal Reward

(Revelation 7:1-4,9,10,13-17)

Lesson 11 -- second quarter 2004
May 16, 2004

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2004, Christian Light Publications

That's wonderful for then, but what about now?

If heroes or spiritual giants mix well with suffering, then I don't fall in either category. I also have a hard time maintaining a balanced, objective perspective while I am in the middle of suffering. I go to great lengths to avoid suffering. Sometimes I even make ridiculous choices -- putting up with prolonged allergy symptoms and painless medication rather than enduring the brief "trauma" of a cortisone shot!

In my early teens, a special friend killed herself with rat poison. As a missionary, I battled the mumps. In my early fatherhood I resigned myself to losing my second child to heart problems. I could only stand by and wait for paramedics when a young mother from our school was badly injured in a horrific car accident. During a six-hour glucose tolerance test I discovered I have a low tolerance for chain reaction blood drawing. I have had to live with the uncertainty of being under surveillance in a foreign land. My desire to return to the foreign field has been denied. So I have suffered some here and there in my lifetime.

Many others have suffered much more than I; perhaps you are one of those. The Apostle Paul's load of afflictions looks heavier than mine, yet he referred to it as "our light affliction, which is but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17)! If his rate "light," mine surely score somewhere in the range of "weightless"! How could Paul have such a healthy view of his rough times? More importantly, how can I attain to that?

I need to learn to refocus. When I suffer, my problems become the sun in the solar system of my thoughts. I find it so difficult to think on something other than myself and my difficulties. I get so hung up on the immediacy of things personal, present, and problematic. God uses Paul to challenge us to look beyond the temporal things which are seen, to the eternal things which are not seen (2 Corinthians 4:18). Then we can see that our afflictions are "but for a moment" and can work "for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

I must learn to say "Blessed be God" right in the middle of the situation, rather than waiting till its all over. I need to turn my thoughts toward "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 1:3). This could be a time of Bible study, meditation, and special prayer. Despite (and maybe even because of) my sufferings, God wants my "inward man . . . renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16) -- but I am too busy feeling bum!

God wants our sufferings to bring us closer to Himself, to experience the comfort and consolation of Christ. God also wants our sufferings to bring us closer to our family of faith so "that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4).

When others are aware of my difficulties and sufferings, are they aware of distress and despair? Do they get the impression that I have been forsaken and destroyed? Or do they become aware of the life of Jesus made manifest in my body (2 Corinthians 4:10)?

"We count them happy which endure" (James 5:11)! Jesus endured the cross knowing that all kinds of joy would follow (Hebrews 12:2). I want that perspective; I want to look more to Him.

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